1. Use healthier recipes for sweet treats
Make Christmas treats smaller in size, higher in fibre and lower in sugar, adding healthy extras such as cranberries, raisins or nuts. For mince pies, use a shortcrust pastry which is lower in calories than puff (check the label), and half-fat pastry if you can.
2. Get the kids to help choose and prepare the Christmas Day veg
Studies show that when children are involved in the choosing and preparing of food, they get a sense of ownership that makes them much more likely to enjoy the results.
3. Invest in a vegetable spiraliser
A spiraliser can transform five-a-day into spaghetti-style spirals that make even the most boring vegetables look exciting. Sweet potato curls are particularly popular. Simply peel your potato, put it in the machine, add salt and pepper and olive oil and cook.
4. Turn whole meals into Christmas characters
Turn a bowl of granola into Rudolph by using pretzels for the ears, raisins for the eyes and a red smartie for the nose. Transform sandwiches into a snowman by cutting them into three circles and attaching them to a kebab stick, then decorating them with things like cut-up paper, raisins and carrot shavings.
5. Make fruit festive
Make red and white striped candy canes using cut up strawberries and bananas. You could also create a fruit centrepiece for the table.
6. Create Christmas themed drinks
Why should kids stick to water and milk when adults are enjoying much more exciting drinks? Get creative, with ideas such as peppermint hot chocolate, milkshakes and Christmas smoothies. Freeze grapes or mandarin orange segments and use them as ice cubes for water, and invest in fun straws and festive cups.
7. Cut down on Christmas lunch fat
Before you cook your turkey, prick the skin to allow the fat to drain out. Cook it on a trivet or upturned ovenproof plate so it’s not sitting in the fat, and then remove the skin when you serve it. To make low-fat gravy, pour the turkey juices into a jug and wait for the fat to rise to the surface, then carefully pour or spoon off the fat. But do remember that young children, especially under twos, need fat and calories for growth.
8. Be a role model
You can’t expect your children not to pester you for sugar and fat-laden food if they see you grabbing handfuls of Christmas cookies and sugary drinks and loading your plate up with huge puddings. So try to set up a good example and cut down on the sweet and fatty stuff!
9. Make a big Christmas breakfast
Make sure you all have a decent breakfast as it can deter children from asking for fatty and sugary foods throughout the morning. Make breakfast a treat by serving some favourite savouries and bring out a colourful fruit platter.
10. Make mini portions
Choosing bite-sized mince pies or smaller biscuits means fewer calories, provided kids don’t eat twice as much! Even for healthier foods, like turkey pie, you’re better off serving on small plates – it’s much more appealing to a child than a dollop of food.